Archives For IBSA Annual Meeting

Counting to 200

ib2newseditor —  November 6, 2017

illinois coat of arms

Illinois became a state on December 3, 1818. And so soon, those who pay attention to such things will begin the one-year countdown to our state’s bicentennial.

Because Illinois is our state mission field, the “Judea” in our churches’ Acts 1:8 missions responsibility, IBSA will be joining the bicentennial celebration with a countdown of our own. Launching at the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, and continuing through next year’s Annual Meeting, we are challenging IBSA churches to consider “counting to 200” in four very special ways.

First, we have identified 200 places or people groups in Illinois where a new church is desperately needed. We are inviting churches to adopt one or more of those 200 by praying, or partnering with resources or volunteers, or actually sponsoring the plant as the mother church.

Second, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will seek to become more frequently baptizing churches, by setting annual baptism goals and equipping their members to intentionally have gospel conversations and participate in evangelistic events and mission trips. We are praying for churches that will set their sights on baptizing at least once a month, or more than their previous three-year average.

Third, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit a percentage of their annual budgets to Cooperative Program missions, and then seek to increase that percentage annually toward 10% or more.

Potential for true mission advance is through churches that embrace pioneering spirit commitments.

And finally, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit to intentional leadership development processes—not only for the pastor and current leaders, but also for future pastors, planters, and missionaries.

Of course, some churches are fulfilling one or more of these challenges already. But for the overwhelming majority of IBSA churches, these challenges will be a major stretch. In fact, as our 2017 Annual Meeting theme suggests, moving beyond our status quo into these types of commitments will take a true “pioneering spirit.” It’s the kind of spirit that brought Baptist pioneers to Illinois more than 200 years ago.

That’s why we at IBSA are asking churches to register their “pioneering spirit” commitments, either now or in the coming months. Not only do we want to celebrate those commitments between the 2017 and 2018 IBSA Annual Meetings, but we also want to give those churches our focused, priority attention as an IBSA staff.

Certainly we will continue to be responsive to the requests and needs of all IBSA churches, and to provide services, resources, consultations, and events throughout the busy year. But we believe that the greatest potential for true mission advance in Illinois will be through churches that embrace these pioneering spirit commitments, and we want to come alongside them in special ways, and give them our priority assistance. We also want to network these churches together, so that they can benefit from one another’s experiences and ministry strategies.

The second verse of our Illinois state song begins, “Eighteen-eighteen saw your founding, Illinois, Illinois, and your progress is unbounding, Illinois, Illinois.” It goes on to remind us of the origin of that unbounding progress. “Pioneers once cleared the lands where great industries now stand. World renown you do command, Illinois, Illinois.”

When you see things like great industries and world renown, it’s usually because a few pioneers paved the way for them. And if we are to see great churches and world impact coming from Illinois Baptists, it will be because a few pioneers sacrificially pave the way. Will your church be one of those first 200 that brings a much-needed pioneering spirit to our state’s bicentennial, and to our mission of seeking and saving the lost here in Illinois?

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org. Read more at IBSA.org/pioneering.

The road ahead

ib2newseditor —  October 30, 2017

A tough but exciting journey awaits us

Postcard art w adventure inserted

If we were to drive west from Illinois, whether along Interstate 70 from St. Louis, 72 from Springfield, or 80 from Chicago, the experience would be largely the same. We would continue in a long, straight line for a very long time, rolling over a few hills and rivers in Missouri or Iowa before settling into the even longer, even straighter, seemingly eternal plains of Kansas or Nebraska and eastern Colorado. Then we would see the mountains.

Imagine what early pioneers must have thought when the amazing barrier of the Rocky Mountains first appeared on the horizon. No doubt many of them turned south or north for a while, hoping to find a way around. They knew the experience, equipment, and skills that had carried them across the slowly elevating plains would not take them over those mountains. They would need to find a pass, a way through. And even that journey would be like none they had faced before.

As we Southern Baptists in Illinois now approach our state’s bicentennial year, our journey is much the same. We have been on a long, flat path for years—in number of churches, in baptisms, in church plants, in giving, and in most measures of church involvement and growth. That’s not a criticism. It’s just a description of our recent journey.

Along the way, hardly noticeable until just recently, the altitude has gradually increased and the climb has grown steeper. So many cultural dynamics have grown counter to Christian faith, and perhaps especially to Baptist faith. We too can turn to the left or to the right for a while. But to truly advance from the plains of our status quo up into the mountains our mission now faces, I believe we must dig deep and find a new, pioneering spirit.

Go to new places
In Illinois Baptist mission life, going new places means taking the gospel to the counties and cities and communities where Baptist or even evangelical churches don’t yet exist or have a strong presence. It means church planting.

IBSA churches have numbered right around 1,000 for decades, even while planting around 20 new churches a year. With those one thousand churches baptizing between four and five new believers each, we reach about 4,000 to 5,000 people per year. Yet Illinois has 13 million people, and at least 8 million of them don’t claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And most of them do not live near our existing churches. To leave the flatland of our status quo and reach the lost people of Illinois, we must increase and accelerate the number of new churches being started. We must place a gospel witness near them.

Pioneering Spirit Challenge #1: Will your church adopt at least one of the 200 places where a new church is needed? Your commitment can be to pray, or to partner with others to get that church started, or to be the primary planting church. Will you pray, partner, or plant?

Engage new people
Establishing healthy, new churches in the places where they are needed is one important commitment of a pioneering spirit. The first Baptists arrived in Illinois during a time when it was extremely difficult and even dangerous just to survive and eke out a living. Yet they considered it a priority to share the gospel and to start new Baptist churches. Four of those churches that were in existence when Illinois became a state in 1818 are still serving their communities today!

But being blessed—and burdened—with a pioneering spirit also leads churches, both new and established, to intentionally and consistently engage new people with the gospel message. With a sense of urgency, they will evangelize.

Sadly, it’s possible even for a well-intentioned church to lose its passion for evangelism, and become more of a church of settlers than a church of pioneers. They worship, and study, and fellowship, and even serve one another and the community. But very little energy goes into seeking and saving the lost.

Consider this: The almost 1,000 IBSA churches baptized about 4,000 people last year, four per church on average. But over 300 churches reported no baptisms at all. The remaining churches that reported baptisms averaged seven each. If non-baptizing churches simply reached the same number of people with the gospel that baptizing churches did, 7,000 people would come to know Christ next year. And just imagine what would happen if the churches already baptizing seven or more started baptizing monthly!

By intentionally shifting their focus toward evangelism, churches that have settled can become pioneering churches again.

Pioneering Spirit Challenge #2: Will your church commit to turning itself inside out into your community, training its members to intentionally have gospel conversations and evangelistic events, and asking God to increase the number of baptisms you see each year? Will you do whatever it takes to become a more frequently baptizing church?

Make new sacrifices
Going to new places and engaging new people is costly. It’s one reason so many stay where they are—and settle. Many early pioneers packed literally everything they owned into a wagon, and some sacrificed it all to get to their destination. A pioneering spirit sees the value of moving toward those new places and new people, and is willing to give sacrificially to make it happen.

Going to a new place of mission effectiveness here in Illinois will be costly too, especially if God inspires more churches and raises up more leaders, planters, and missionaries to go to new places and engage many new people. Fortunately, we as Illinois Baptists have a wonderful, reliable, tested vehicle in which to entrust our sacrifices. The Cooperative Program (some call it CP Missions) prioritizes missions in Illinois by investing 56.5% of its gifts here, while also sending 43.5% to be combined with others’ gifts and take the gospel throughout North America and the world.

Today the average IBSA church gives about 7% of its undesignated offerings to local and worldwide missions through the Cooperative Program. As with baptisms, that average is the result of some churches sacrificing far more, and some sacrificing far less. At one time, 10% was the accepted norm for Cooperative Program missions, and at one time IBSA churches averaged giving 11% rather than 7%. Simply stated, a return to that 10% standard could result in over $3 million more to missions next year.

Pioneering Spirit Challenge #3: Will your church commit to a new level of sacrificial missions giving through the Cooperative Program? Will you challenge your members to faithful tithing and life stewardship, so that generous giving transforms their own lives, as well as others’?

Develop new leaders
A pioneering spirit must be multi-generational. Very few destinations that require true, pioneering effort can be fully attained in one lifetime. Our parents’ generation brought us this far into our Baptist missionary journey in Illinois, and now we lead and will go a little farther before entrusting the journey to our children. That’s why a pioneering spirit must invest in the development of new leaders, even as it sacrifices and gives its all now.

It seems that churches used to have more systematic ways of developing new leaders. Sunday nights were invested in church leadership training programs. Wednesday nights were often invested in missions education programs that developed boys and girls, and young men and women, for tomorrow’s missionary and church leadership roles.

We should be grateful for churches that still develop tomorrow’s leaders in this way, while not necessarily wishing the same programs or methods on others. But today, more than ever, we must ask ourselves with a new seriousness, “How are we systematically and intentionally developing leaders for tomorrow’s churches?”

Pioneering Spirit Challenge #4: Will your church commit to the intentional developing of younger leaders who will be tomorrow’s pastors, and church planters, and missionaries? Will you join with other Baptist partners like IBSA who can help you develop these young leaders for tomorrow’s church?

Facing our mountains
Last summer I traveled to Loveland, Colorado, in part to scout out Long’s Peak, a 14,259-foot mountain that will hopefully, next year, be the thirty-first and most difficult “fourteener” I climb. As I headed west from the Interstate and flatlands of Loveland, I could not immediately see the pass up into the mountains. But soon I noticed that the road was following a stream, and then a mighty, rushing river. There was barely room for a road in some places, but the water had cut enough of a path through the rock that we could now follow it up to previously impossible heights. We eagerly forged ahead.

To leave the flat trends of our recent journey as Illinois Baptists may seem impossible at first. Our 200-year-old mission field is more lost now than ever. And developing new leaders while making new sacrifices to engage new people in new places with the gospel—well, that’s no easy path. But I believe the living water of God’s own Spirit has already made a way for us. If we are filled with his Pioneering Spirit and will follow him forward by faith, even into difficult places, I believe God has new heights planned for us here in Illinois.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. The challenges outlined here will be presented in the Annual Meeting.

Family gatherings

ib2newseditor —  October 16, 2017

Postcard art

Not long ago, the pastor of an already growing church contacted me about “becoming Southern Baptist.” His church was starting to think about planting another church or campus, and had heard about the partnership and resources available through our North American Mission Board.

As I began explaining Southern Baptist polity and structure to him, I realized that those of us who “became” Southern Baptist when our parents enrolled us in the church nursery may sometimes take for granted the way our largest Protestant denomination in America operates and cooperates. In fact, many laypeople in our churches today might have trouble answering this pastor’s question.

Later I wished I had explained Southern Baptist life to him the way I truly think about it—like a family. A local church is like the immediate family you live with every day. You do life with them and know them intimately, in good times and bad, for better and worse.

A local Baptist association is like your family that lives nearby. You might see them every week, or maybe once a month, perhaps for dinner or to help with a project. They would help you move, or loan you their truck, or pick up your kids or grandkids in an emergency. They are your first line of support, and your first line of defense. You trust them, and you count on them, because they’re family, even if they don’t live at your house all the time.

Illinois Baptists will celebrate their annual ‘family reunion’ Nov. 7-9.

A state Baptist Association or Convention is like a more extended family. The distance between family members keeps you from seeing everyone in person very often. But you talk by phone, and you’re Facebook friends, and you’re aware of what each other is doing. When you’re in their town, you visit them. When their kids graduate or get married, or have a big life event, you’re there. And they’re there for you too.

When you are together with extended family, it’s still clear you’re related. The subtle family resemblances are there. Behaviors and preferences may be diverse, but values are largely the same. You know the same folklore. You celebrate the same heritage. You would still do anything for each other, even if Uncle Bill irritates you a little. You would never want to leave or lose this family, even if you’re grateful to get back in the car and go home.

Then there’s the national Southern Baptist Convention, which I might compare to a nationwide family reunion. I attended one of those once, for the Cunningham line of my family, which has gathered every Father’s Day weekend for decades in western Kentucky. We loved going, and met people we had never met before, and it didn’t take long to discover common threads, and certainly common values. I hope to go again someday. And if you ask me, “Are you a Cunningham?” I will proudly say yes, and eagerly help anyone from that family.

I know lots and lots of pastors and church members who have never been to a national Southern Baptist Convention, but who faithfully give to Southern Baptist missions, and who faithfully believe The Baptist Faith and Message. It’s a wonderful, diverse, large family.

And so, with a newfound warmth and enthusiasm for family, I invite you to come to Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur this November 7-9 for the IBSA Pastors’ Conference and IBSA Annual Meeting. In fact, bring someone with you who hasn’t been to this extended family gathering in a while. You won’t know everyone, but everyone you meet will be family. They believe what you believe, and they work together at doing the things you know are most important. And at least most of us would do anything for you.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Vote Yeah

Editor’s note: Messengers to the 110th Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association passed a resolution encouraging Illinois Baptists to vote biblical values when they go to the polls.

WHEREAS, God has ordained government to reward good and to punish evil (Romans 13:1–5, 1 Peter 2:13–14); and

WHEREAS, Jesus described His followers as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–16), indicating the Lord’s desire for believers to exercise a beneficent influence on their surrounding society; and

WHEREAS, believers in Illinois and in the United States enjoy a constitutionally granted opportunity to influence not only the nation, but also states, regions, and communities by voting for those seeking the country’s highest office and for other elected officials; and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message affirms that “all Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society” and that “every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love”; and

WHEREAS, ”every pastor is called to help his congregation think biblically about all aspects of life: including current cultural issues. The media, pop culture and political pundits relentlessly bombard your people with messages untethered from a Christian worldview. But you have the privilege of both helping your congregation filter those messages, and discipline your congregation in the practical theology of Christian living at the intersection of faith and politics.” (Christiana Holcomb, Alliance Defending Freedom); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that Southern Baptists and all followers of Jesus Christ in the United States be reminded that the nation’s hope ultimately is not in political processes or governmental power, but in God alone; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the messengers to the Illinois Baptist State Association meeting in Broadview, Illinois, November 2-3, 2016, give thanks to God that He has placed us in a nation with freedom of expression and opportunity to influence our national and state governments, a freedom secured at a high price, even with shed blood on the battlefield; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we encourage Illinois Baptists and all followers of Jesus Christ to participate in the democratic process by voting; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we choose for our leaders wise leaders who reflect godly character; leaders who are righteous (Proverbs 16:12); are not greedy (Proverbs 29:4); practice self-control (Proverbs 31:4-5; 20:1); are sexually moral (Proverbs 31:3); have personal integrity (Proverbs 17:7; 20:28); fear God (Proverbs 1:7; 29:18); seek wisdom (Proverbs 8:15, 17:15; Romans 13:4; 1 Peter 2:14); and show compassion to the helpless (Proverbs 22:22-23, 29; 23:10-11; 29:7; 31:8-9); and be it further

RESOLVED, that we prayerfully urge our friends and neighbors to do likewise; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we prayerfully urge all candidates for political office to endorse the biblical values upon which society should rest; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that we commit ourselves to pray earnestly for God to bring spiritual, moral, ethical, and cultural renewal to our nation.

By Marvin Del Rios

Editor’s note: This post is the last in a series on cross-cultural ministry, taken from a round table discussion between four Illinois pastors and leaders. Click here to read more from their conversation, published in the September 29 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper. 

marvindelriosMarvin Del Rios is pastor of iglesia Bautista Erie in Chicago. He will lead worship during the Thursday morning session of the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Annual Meeting at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Chicagoland, Nov. 2-3. The theme of the meeting is “Cross-Culture.”

Defining ‘cross-cultural ministry’
When I hear “cross-cultural ministry,” I go to the book of Acts, chapter 6, which talks about the differences between the Hellenistic Jews and the Jews that come from their own land. That is something that we are living within Hispanic or Latino churches right now, which is the way our generations relate to one another.

The first generation can become accustomed to a certain way of preaching, a certain way of leading worship, a certain way of “doing church” right. The second and third generations are more familiar with American culture, education, lifestyle, and language. What is happening is that there is unfortunately an exodus of the second and third generations that are leaving the church. Either they’re leaving completely and not coming back, or they’re going to a more English-based or multicultural church.

On a pastor’s responsibility
Even though I am called to go and preach to the nations, I have a burning desire to go and reach my second- and third-generation Latino culture. Unfortunately, there is a huge disconnect with the first, second, and third generations, even though we may speak the same language and may have some of the same traditions.

 We have tried to make our church a hub for the community.

Even though I am a second-generation Hispanic leading a predominately first-generation church, a few people that are second-generation have seen me model trying to minister and take care of that first generation. And now, the first generation is taking the extra step to learn a little bit more English. All of that happened with modeling. I could have said, “Fine, I’m concentrating on the second and third generations, and that’s it.” But we still have that need for the gospel for all generations and cultures. It is our responsibility to see it through and make it happen.

On inter-generational outreach
My approach has been to let get something going well with our second-generation people, so they can take it back to the first generation. Usually we hear about the first generation ministering to the second generation, but now it is starting to turn around.  Now it is the second generation ministering to the first generation. Because of that dynamic, we also are ministering to the young professionals in our community and trying to see where we can come out of our comfort zone.

We have tried to make our church a hub for the community. Now we are housing an AA meeting for families and a lot of contemporary culture kinds of programs. In a nutshell, the people in our community know we are there to serve. Is it happening really fast? No, I wish it would be faster. But it is getting to the point that we are seeing more of the gospel leading out, instead of the gospel just being planted in our church and staying there.

Missions opportunities to highlight gathering in Metro Chicago

Final preparations are under way for the 110th IBSA Annual Meeting November 2-3. The event at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in metro Chicago will focus on cross-culture ministry opportunities in Illinois. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the SBC, called Golden Gate Seminary prior to its relocation from the San Francisco Bay Area to metro Los Angeles this year.

“Dr. Iorg is among the most compelling, thoughtful, and missional voices in Southern Baptist life today, especially when it comes to understanding post-Christian culture in America,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “I’m so grateful that he is leading our West Coast seminary into the future, where pastors and leaders will engage values and cultures that are already very different from those of the past century.”

I hope this year’s Annual Meeting will bring to all of us a new vision and higher level of commitment to ‘cross culture’ with the gospel.

Iorg is a former church planter and state convention executive director in the Pacific Northwest. As a leader of Southern Baptist work on the West Coast, Iorg has addressed many of the cultural challenges now facing evangelicals in the Midwest. He has written frequently on theological and biblical perspectives on marriage, sexuality, and gender. His book “Building Antioch” shows from the New Testament how an ordinary believing congregation can become a transformational community.

“Illinois Baptists will come away from Dr. Iorg’s messages challenged and transformed, I’m sure,” Adams said.

The Wednesday evening session, including Iorg, will focus on a four-phase process for engaging ministry across cultural barriers. Adams will outline the plan and share testimonies and videos of Illinois churches carrying the gospel to people unlike themselves.

“My own recent trips to Chicago have reminded me again how diverse our churches are, and even more so how varied and challenging are the cultures that our churches need to reach,” Adams said. “I hope this year’s Annual Meeting will bring to all of us a new vision and higher level of commitment to ‘cross culture’ with the gospel.”

IBSA President Kevin Carrothers, pastor of Rochester First Baptist Church and Vice President Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, will also bring messages.

In addition to the session on the variety of ministry opportunities in Illinois, the meeting will include two business sessions on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Vision tours of Chicago-area ministry opportunities are available. Seating is limited, so online registration is encouraged.

Visit www.IBSAAnnualMeeting.org to learn more.

By Kevin Carrothers

Editor’s note: This post is one in a series on cross-cultural ministry, taken from a round table discussion between four Illinois pastors and leaders. Click here to read more from their conversation, published in the September 29 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper. 

kevin-carrothersKevin Carrothers is pastor of Rochester First Baptist Church and president of IBSA. He will deliver the president’s message Wednesday, Nov. 2, during the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Annual Meeting at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Chicagoland. The theme of the meeting is “Cross-Culture.”

On being an influential church
I was a couple of years into my ministry in Rochester when I sat down with a leader in town. I asked him, “What do you think about when you hear Rochester First Baptist Church? What comes to mind?” His words weren’t really a rebuke, but I didn’t like what he said. He said “You’re a nice little church.”

Well, we are a small church, unapologetically a small church, but that was his perception, a “nice little church.” Now, hopefully that has changed since then. Now, we’re “the church that does the party” (our annual fall festival). Or we’re the church that does VBS in the summer in a way that spreads the gospel to our community.

We don’t have to be the biggest church but we can still be the most influential church.

I don’t want to just be the nice little church, but we are still little. The word that I want is influence. We don’t have to be the biggest church but we can still be the most influential church.

On ‘incarnational’ ministry
God was incarnational with us—he sent Jesus to live among people. Likewise, we need to be incarnational. Sometimes I think that’s where we kind of miss the boat in the church. We think we have to come up with a new program or a new ministry. Instead, let’s find out who is doing something and go be involved in that.

For me personally, being incarnational is volunteering at my kid’s school. On my day off, I spend a couple hours at the schools and have a presence there. That makes an impact. It’s coaching Little League or youth basketball. You’re there with people. Then, you have to be intentional about making sure the gospel becomes known, about making sure that they know this is who you are.

It gets back to all the things we have been talking about. Cross-culturally we have to love our community; we have to show them that we care. We have to go where they are.